Freelancing is not for everyone.
Some people enjoy it like myself, and others are uncomfortable with the unpredictability of this career path. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and the ability to work 12 hours every day, including the weekend. But, if you are serious, here are 5 practical ways you can find jobs as a Jamaican freelance graphic designer.
Considerations before becoming a freelancer in 2021
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I lived in Kingston, where I attended classes at the University of Technology, Jamaica. I was spending close to JMD 40,000 per month to get by, and while it doesn’t seem like much at first, it becomes a lot harder to keep up when you’re unemployed.
Working as a freelancer is unpredictable. You'll see a massive influx of new clients one month and not receive any clients the next. I would advise against beginners freelancing full-time and only pursue this as a side gig. However, due to COVID-19, many people have lost their jobs and are searching for alternative sources of income. If you have minimal design experience, try watching some videos covering the basics of graphic design. I also recently created a useful guide on 24 graphic design terms for non-designers, which you can reference.
Okay, now that we have looked at the considerations, we can move on to finding jobs.
Supportive family members and friends
This one sounds obvious, yet many novices ignore this vital part of starting as a freelance graphic designer. A beginner won’t have a vast body of work that they can show a customer, and even if they do, it might be personal projects and classwork. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but having real-world experience goes a long way in establishing confidence between your client and yourself.
Your family is often your biggest supporter, so try taking on some of their design projects in exchange for promotion. You’ll fill up your portfolio with real projects, and you can make arrangements with them to promote your work. It’s a win-win regardless of how you look at it. Some designers will frown on this and say never to give out free designs. But, if you have no experience, this is an excellent opportunity to improve your skills.
If you’re insistent on getting paid, offer a family discount in exchange for the promotion of your services. That way, you get paid and still get the advertisement from your family. Which path you choose is up to you, of course.
You may not see instant results, but the long-term benefits may prove to be worth the wait.
Use Linkedin to find high quality leads
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Well, I used to hate LinkedIn until I discovered how valuable it was for building a professional network of like-minded creatives and business experts.
Linkedin is Facebook for businesses, and one thing everyone knows about businesses is that their sole purpose is to make money. Sign up for a Linkedin account and add some of your classmates, teachers, friends, and reach out to different creatives on the platform. Join Linkedin groups to promote your work and get helpful feedback from others more experienced than you. Establish yourself as a trusted voice in the community by sharing valuable information and interacting with others using the comment sections.
How to advertise on Linkedin
Once you’ve done this, try messaging a company that you believe you can bring value to with your talents and explain the services you offer. Some won’t respond, and others will block you, but if you keep at it, you will discover someone that would love to work with you. LinkedIn doesn’t deliver results immediately, but if you have the patience, you can find a steady flow of clients through the platform.
Note: Don’t be annoying with your proposals. Send the initial message and if they don’t reply instantly, follow up with them a few days later and see what they have to say. If you still don’t get a reply, cut your losses, and move on.
You can follow the wwworkshop team on Linkedin. We regularly publish designs, case studies and blog posts there.
Find an experienced graphic design mentor
A graphic design mentor is someone more experienced in graphic design that can pass on essential skills and best practices. They also know what it takes to grow as a creative professional.
One great thing about having a mentor is that they have a steady flow of clients that need designs on the regular. If your mentor trusts you and believes in your work, they may pass on some of their projects to you. You can also take the initiative and offer to do some extra jobs for payment.
The advantage is that you get to earn money as a freelance graphic designer while also learning how to run a successful design business from someone more experienced.
Network with students and lecturers at your local college
One of my first big design projects started with Philip Clarke, a lecturer at my college.
Philip Clarke asked me to create a poster for him back in 2018 for the Centre for the Arts’ anniversary. He loved the design and wanted to collaborate on future projects. Fast-forward to 2020 and Philip, and I have an excellent working relationship. We even teamed up last year to promote his new Instagram show ‘Lights, Cameras, Real Life’ on social media.
Four ways to find design jobs on campus.
- Ask your lecturers if they need keynote designs for their classes.
- Reach out to your faculty and see if they require artwork for an upcoming event.
- Visit various clubs and societies around campus and offer to design logos and flyers.
- Try asking the different vendors around campus if they're looking to rebrand.
Remember, some lecturers may have a vast network of connections. If you can get recommended for your designs, that is a tremendous networking opportunity, especially on LinkedIn. However, don’t go around accepting free work in exchange for exposure as people will start to exploit you.
Pro tip: Reach out to students in other faculties and offer to help them with designs for projects. But, remember that college students are ballin’ on a budget so don't set your expectations too high.
Local businesses going digital
Local businesses are a great way to make money if you know how to pitch your services.
Since the beginning of the lockdowns, many entrepreneurs have switched from physical shops and started online companies. This shift should be good news for freelancers as it means new customers. You can make a decent earning just setting up social media pages and websites where clients can sell their products.
For social media, try approaching local businesses with a proposal explaining how you can help them win online with a digital marketing strategy. You can offer social media plans which cover interactions with followers, daily social media posts and custom artwork for public holidays. The best part about the subscription method is that you can expect a steady flow of income monthly.
Every serious business needs a professional website. Yet, a lot of small businesses don’t understand the significance of a quality website that is actively maintained. If you have the skills, try pitching a website design to several small businesses around you. Be sure to clearly state and the value it would bring to their operation.
For example, you could turn your sights to restaurants where people often call to find out the costs of meals. A website would work splendidly in their case as you could show off the restaurant’s layout, custom-designed menus and provide easily accessible information that the end user would greatly appreciate. The combination of these elements could lead to a significant boost in revenue for the restaurant and increased brand recognition.
Don't use Fiverr if you have self-respect
Don’t use Fiverr.
I understand some people will say, ‘I know Fiverr users who make a lot of money’ or maybe you’re that person. That’s fine, that’s fine. If you’re happy there, then that’s okay. But, at the same time, Fiverr is hurting the graphic design industry, especially if you wish to charge decent rates.
Imagine pricing your work for a few hundred dollars on Fiverr, and some guy from India charges $15 for the same thing. That’s just insane. You cannot compete with that, especially if you have bills to pay. However, if a business only wanted to pay $15 for a logo, then they weren’t good clients, to begin with.
The biggest grievance I have with the platform is how they feature creators in the search. Most users go with whoever is on the first page or those with high ratings, and this stifles the newer members who don’t have a single client. Some people go months or even years without getting hired unless they drop their prices to be the lowest. Fiverr is just a race to the bottom, and any self-respecting graphic designer should stay far away.
Freelancing is not easy, especially for Jamaican freelancers who are often underappreciated and undervalued. This guide covers five great ways to find jobs as a Jamaican freelance graphic designer, but it can easily apply to other creative fields. I wrote these from my personal experiences, and I hope that they can help point you in the right direction. Feel free to share some of your methods in the comments below.